Chinese Baptists strive for multiplying churches
BALTIMORE, Md. (BP) -- A church planter is in the initial stages of planting a church in Portland, Ore., a state with many Chinese people but not one single Chinese Southern Baptist Church. A deacon in Virginia Beach has a burden to partner with Chinese immigrants primarily working in restaurants, starting several late-night small groups that have the potential to become churches. A Chinese Baptist congregation is excited about starting a Spanish-speaking fellowship.
Each of these are examples of church-planting progress going on through the Chinese Baptist Fellowship of the United States and Canada. During the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting, fellowship representatives hosted a dinner June 9 to show appreciation for and encourage approximately 20 Chinese Baptist pastors and church planters.
Peter Leong, church liaison officer for the Chinese Baptist Fellowship and consulting pastor at Grace Chinese Baptist Church in Sugar Land, Texas; and Ted Lam, church-planting ambassador for the fellowship and pastor of Tulsa International Baptist Church; were among the group, along with Jeremy Sin, who works with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) in church mobilization and partners with the Chinese Baptist Fellowship to help plant churches among Asians in America.
Though in the past the fellowship has held its conference in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting, Leong said, they typically hold it separately. The Southern Baptist-affiliated fellowship will hold its 18th biennial conference in Houston, Texas, at Chinese Baptist Church Sept. 23-25.
Francis Chan, founding pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, Calif., and Peter Chung, senior pastor of Mandarin Baptist Church of Los Angeles, will speak at the event.
In 2010, the Chinese Baptist Fellowship made church planting a priority, with a goal of planting 600 new churches in the United States and Canada by 2020. About 55 churches have been planted since the initiative's beginning; 37 cities where Chinese church plants are needed have been identified. In the last year, the fellowship was able to start about 24 churches.
"This is the biggest hurdle -- we don't have enough church planters," Lam said. But the fellowship receives "great" help from NAMB, he said, through training and recruiting of church planters.
Lam said as much as they can, they invite international missionaries who have experience in Asian countries to their events to connect with North American church planters, so they can partner together in mission work.
The Chinese Baptist Fellowship is made up of about 300 churches. According to a recent census, Sin said, there are about 4 million Chinese people in the United States today, and another million in Canada. But the numbers are constantly changing with the influx of Chinese immigrants and students.
"There's a lot of opportunity for us to do the mission," Leong said.
For the past 25 years, the Chinese Baptist Fellowship has been hosting a "Pioneers" camp for young adults to promote church planting, leadership, and eventually service in the local church. They are now working to expand the camp into different regions of the U.S.
Sin said he's "very privileged" to work with the Chinese Baptist Fellowship. Nearly every officer on the fellowship's executive committee is either starting churches themselves or involved in church planting.
"These leaders, they are not just talking, they are practicing and leading by example," Sin said.
Lam said their strategy is not just to start one or two churches, but to create an atmosphere of church planting so people can feel God's call to start churches. Their vision is to see church plants multiply themselves.
In the first two years of their emphasis, Leong said, they promoted and taught about church planting so that Chinese Baptists could have ideas on how to start a new church, and "not just by the pastor, but by the laymen -- just back to the New Testament," Leong said.
One important thing for people to know about the Chinese Baptist Fellowship and their work is that mission is in their backyard, Leong said -- "we need not to go to foreign lands, now here we can do the mission … they're sent to us."